Kansas stretches more than 400 miles from east to west and has considerable crude oil, natural gas, and renewable energy resources. The state’s broad plains rise gradually from about 600 feet above sea level at the Missouri River on the east to more than 3,000 feet higher on the western High Plains. Crude oil and natural gas reserves are found in several basins across the state. Strong winds blow across the open prairie, creating significant wind energy resources. Major river systems, including the Arkansas, Kansas, Republican, and Smoky Hill Rivers, flow from the High Plains eastward across Kansas, offering hydropower potential.
Kansas typically produces about 1.5% of total U.S. crude oil production.
With its midcontinent location, Kansas has hot summers, often-frigid winters, and occasional severe weather, including tornados. But Kansas averages more than 200 days of full or partial sunshine each year, giving the state significant solar energy resources and making it, with its fertile prairie soils, an important agricultural state. Kansas ranks third in the nation in the amount of land devoted to farming. The state’s grain sorghum and corn crops are major feedstocks for ethanol production, and agricultural wastes provide substantial biomass resources.
Total end-use energy consumption in Kansas is highest in the industrial sector, which includes manufacturing, particularly aviation and aerospace manufacturing, as well as agriculture and the energy-intensive petroleum industry. The industrial sector uses one-third of the energy consumed in Kansas. Transportation, the second-largest energy-consuming sector, uses a little more than one-fourth, and the residential sector and commercial sector each use about one-fifth.
Kansas, with its wide plains, is among the leading states in both wind energy generation and wind energy potential. Almost all of Kansas’s renewable net electricity generation comes from wind, and, in 2015, the state ranked among the top five states in the nation in generation from wind energy. Kansas is also among the five states with the highest wind energy potential. In addition, Kansas has solar and hydroelectric power resources. Kansas is among the 10 sunniest states in the country, with the same solar power potential as Florida, and some solar photovoltaic capacity is being built. Kansas is crossed by several major rivers that give it substantial hydropower resources, but most dams were built for flood control or drinking water supply. The state has only one hydroelectric generating facility, located on the Kaw River.
Kansas is one of the top 10 ethanol-producing states. Corn and grain sorghum are the primary feedstocks for the ethanol produced in Kansas. There are 14 ethanol plants in the state with a combined capacity of more than 500 million gallons. One cellulosic ethanol plant that began operation in 2014 uses agricultural waste such as corn stalks and cobs, wheat straw, milo stubble, and switchgrass.
In 2015, the Kansas legislature converted the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), enacted in May 2009, into a voluntary goal for the state’s investor-owned and cooperative electric utilities. The RPS originally required electricity providers to obtain 10% of their peak demand capacity from eligible renewable resources from 2011 through 2015, 15% from 2016 through 2019, and 20% each year from 2020 onward. The Kansas RPS is based on generating capacity rather than retail electric sales. Technologies that meet the goal include wind, solar thermal and photovoltaic applications; generation fueled by crops grown for energy production and some agricultural wastes; and hydroelectric facilities of less than 10 megawatts. Additional legislation has established net metering for customers of investor-owned utilities. In 2014, Kansas legislators reduced the sizes of distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) facilities that are eligible for net metering and limited net-metered connections to 1% of peak load. Grid-connected distributed facilities may be counted by electricity providers in meeting the providers’ RPS goal.
In 2015, wind energy provided nearly one-fourth of net electricity generation in Kansas.
Coal-fired power plants supply more than half of the net electricity generated in Kansas. Coal’s share of net generation has been gradually declining as wind energy’s share has increased; in 2015, wind was the second largest source of net generation, producing nearly one-fourth of the electricity generated in Kansas. The state’s single nuclear power station was the third largest generator, supplying more than one-sixth of net electricity generation. The state’s electricity prices are slightly below the national average, in part because of the proximity of Kansas to the coalfields of Wyoming, which provide almost all of the coal used for generation. Although the state has abundant natural gas reserves, natural gas-fired power plants typically contribute less than 5% of the state’s net electricity generation. Fewer than one-fourth of Kansas households rely on electricity as their primary energy source for home heating.
The Hugoton Gas Field, one of the nation’s largest natural gas fields, covers much of southeastern Kansas.
At the end of 2015, total Kansas natural gas reserves were estimated at about 1% of U.S. proved reserves. Natural gas was first found in Kansas in 1882, and cumulative production from all Kansas natural gas wells through 2013 exceeded 42.6 trillion cubic feet. The 12,000-square-mile Hugoton Gas Area, one of the largest natural gas fields in United States, covers much of southwestern Kansas. Natural gas was of little interest until 1929, when the first pipeline to deliver natural gas to nearby markets was built. Kansas produces about 1% of the nation’s natural gas, all of it from conventional natural gas reservoirs. The state’s natural gas marketed production has declined since 1995, and its share of U.S. marketed production has also decreased as production from shale resources rose in other states. Coalbed methane produced from coal seams in the eastern part of the state has offset some of the decline.
In addition to natural gas and crude oil, the Hugoton Field contains unusually high concentrations of helium and has the largest reserves of helium in the United States. The helium is separated from the natural gas and is piped to the National Helium Reserve in Amarillo, Texas, where it is stored in underground geologic formations.
Thirteen interstate natural gas pipelines cross Kansas. Natural gas enters the state via pipelines from Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Colorado, and pipelines ship natural gas out of state, primarily to Missouri and Nebraska. Kansas consumes most of the natural gas it produces. The Mid-Continent Center, a 204-mile pipeline system in south-central Kansas, is a key natural gas interconnect, merging production from several states in the region and piping it east toward major natural gas-consuming markets. Kansas also has 17 natural gas storage fields, which account for 3% of U.S. storage capacity.
The industrial sector in Kansas consumes half of the natural gas used in the state, more than any other sector. Although two-thirds of Kansas households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating, the residential sector accounts for only a little over one-fourth of the state’s natural gas consumption.
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